HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Jan. 9, 2006

Contract extended on DC ice arena, fitness center

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

The Dassel Cokato ice arena, fitness center contract was renewed for one year last Monday at the Dassel City Council meeting.

Plans for construction of the complex at the intersection of State Highway 15 and US Highway 12 are making progress, but there are still some unfinished items that need attention before groundbreaking on the $2.2 million project begins, according to Steve Benda of Cokato at the council meeting.

The biggest hurdle for the project is getting the Minnesota Department of Transportation, MnDOT, to sign off on how the property will be entered, said Myles McGrath, city administrator. MnDOT wants the access to be as far away from the intersection as possible, but won’t provide any specifics about how far is enough, he said.

At the same time, organizers can’t provide MnDOT with a specific description of how the access will be because they are still negotiating for a health and wellness “partner” and fund raising.

Organizers came very close to a deal with Hutchinson Medical Center, for example, Benda said. Planners needed extra time so the three-year, three-way contract, among the City of Dassel; the former owner, Howard Page; and project organizers, doesn’t expire. The expiration date is Saturday, Jan. 21.

The organizers have raised nearly $1 million but fundraising was a challenge in the fall, Benda said. The project was drawing on the same pockets of people funding Hurricane Katrina relief, for example, he said.

The stubs for water and sewer connections are already in place but Meeker Co-op can’t finish the electrical connections without a go ahead from MnDOT either, Benda said.

The 8.5 acres in the northwest corner of the intersection already contains dirt cart trail types of access. MnDOT officials might be under the impression those dirt trails will be the same accesses the ice arena complex will use, McGrath said.

The one-year contract extension also will give the city time to get its wastewater treatment discharge permit renewed, or at least find out what the city needs to do to get it renewed, said Council Member Bob Wilde. The ice in the arena obviously will use water so the status of the permit will affect the complex also, he said.

The project isn’t affected by the city’s moratorium on new plats and zoning, though. because the land is already zoned and within the city limits, McGrath said.

Council Member Bob Lalone requested that a condition of having quarterly reports on the status of the project be made to the council before approving the extension. The organizers will be glad to make reports to the council, Benda responded.

Lalone also asked if the complex organizers have been investigating whether grants are available. The planners always check out whether grants are available, Benda said.

“They seem to be tapped out too,” he added.

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